Original Batman Adam West Reflects on His 'Tongue-in-Cheek' Superhero's Legacy (Guest Column)
Batusi, anyone? In his own words, the actor who first immortalized the superhero onscreen recalls the pleasure and pop sensibility behind his character.
This story first appeared in the May 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Please, I would like you to know that I do not spend my days and nights running around in a cape and cowl fighting crime. But I used to. And even before that, it was a blue bath towel. As a kid on a farm near Walla Walla, Wash., I played Batman. You may have done the same. Little did I know that, 30 years later, I would be labeled the "Billion Dollar Batman" -- the one who kicked off the entire modern franchise. And that, in the '60s, there would be the three Bs: Bond, Batman and The Beatles. Stuff happens. Our Batman became an immense force in popular culture. Wherever I happen to be, I see Batman tattoos, T-shirts and all possible Batman regalia happily worn. Do the kids ever get out of those worn Batman duds?
All of us worked with dedication and clear intent to produce this phenomenon with an unusual new kind of comedy. Batman was in vivid comic-book colors and aired twice a week. It was a first. And it was an homage to the comic books with a tongue-in-cheek take.
At first, DC Comics didn't much like the fact that we were not serious enough for adults. However, when they saw their book sales dramatically increase, they began to love us, as did the Japanese color TV manufacturers. They became big fans, of course. Our TV series and our older Batman movie tuned in to the vivid colors and escapism of the '60s. We were reflecting artists like any Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns. Our above- and below-the-line crew all shared a clear vision of what we were creating and where we were headed. It must be said that this is a tribute to our late executive producer, Bill Dozier, and the brilliant writer who set the tone, the late Lorenzo Semple Jr.
Lorenzo had written a number of award-winning screenplays, but he maintained that our Batman was the best thing he ever wrote. His scripts for the shows were wonderful. We had terrific guest stars, and we didn't wink or try to be funny. We just did funny things. Batusi, anyone?
"Why do you carry a fish in your utility belt, Batman?"
"The true crime-fighter has to be prepared, Robin."
Frankly, I am personally envious of Batman and his great mental capacity and physical condition. Unlike some other superheroes, he is only human with no exotic powers to help him along. And how I wish I were super-cool and unflawed like Bruce Wayne. Most of us share these elusive dreams. This is what pop culture depends on and supports.
Whatever the decade, generation, or whatever you read or watch, there are good guys and there are bad guys. Of course, there are shades of gray, but our Batman and the area of pop culture we created gives us easy-to-determine villains and heroes. Most of us, as we mature, carry inside many of the attributes of those heroes of popular culture. Somehow, they have become a part of us. They certainly have given many something to shoot for. Our Batman, though tongue-in-cheek for adults, remains for younger generations a kind of guide and reference point. Role model, anyone?